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More than an Actor

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART: Actor-director Nasser. Photo: R. Ashok   | Photo Credit: R_ASHOK

After three decades and 400-plus films, for an actor like Nasser hits, flops and comparisons don’t really matter. “For me, my life is priority,” he says, “not being successful or my achievements.”

While it is not fair or easy for him to list out his most challenging or favourite roles from among his vast experience, what promptly comes to his mind are two reasons that make him happy today. One, his son’s recovery from a serious car crash last year and two, people have finally found a reason to use his popularity.

Popular he has been ever since he played the cop in Kamal Haasan starrer Nayagan, but it is his role as a responsible citizen in real life that sets him in high standards for himself.

“It is a good feeling that all those who know Rajnikanth also know me”, he says and adds jokingly, “though our bank balances may not be the same.” But what is important is, he continues, whether I am able to go beyond my cinema and understand the realistic needs and necessities of life?

As the Ambassador for UNICEF working on sanitation, Nasser has launched himself fully into the campaign against open defecation. Appalled at six decades of political misrule playing havoc with citizens’ health, Nasser is going full blast visiting schools with WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) campaign, meeting students and discussing with them the problems of open defecation and sanitation.

Our children are not to be blamed if we are not able to provide them with toilets, he says and wonders while we believe in the panchabhuta and follow all rituals then why do we fail to respect the elements that combine to form the life force and create pollution?

Not the one to play the blame game, Nasser is now all set to focus on the steady degradation of sanitation and environment and set an example in all his socially responsible endeavours. Much like he does for his films, taking both credit and blame. “Basically I don’t like to complain or grudge about anything because I know why I am at a particular place for a particular task,” he says.

Only the decision to join films was not his. “It was my father’s dream to see me act in films,” says Nasser of his father, Mehaboob Basha. “Coming from a lower middle class family, acting was never my passion,” he says, “I just wanted a salaried job to foot my bills and worked as an airman with Indian Air Force and later also at the Taj.”

But his father’s wish prevailed and Nasser got trained at the South Indian Film Chamber and Adyar Film Institute. When his debut film Kalyana Agathigal directed by K.Balachander flopped, he took it as a sign of good luck as it tamed his dreams and ego. And from then on he probably did every role from a villain to comedian, father and father-in-law, a cop to a musician and a political leader in all four South Indian languages besides English and Hindi in his journey of three decades.

Forthright in his views, Nasser says, he is a diehard trained actor and does films purely to earn his bread and butter. “I am neither chasing big money nor fame. Films are all about opportunity and wherever there is something interesting I go for it.” “As a professional, I have to accept what is offered even though I am typecasted,” says the veteran actor.

Fresh from release of Baahubali and with Jeyam Ravi’s Thanioruvan and Telugu film Dictator on the floors, Nasser says though acting has been very satisfying for him so far but he is very opinionated about the craft of acting and making of a film, especially in Tamil cinema. “But I can’t let my opinions interfere,” he says, adding, “I restrict myself and learn from every experience.”

“I keep away from many of my own films but I do love to watch well-made films,” says Nasser, citing his recent favourites including Kaaka Muttai, Jigarthanda, Papanasam, Lunch Box and Piku.

Nasser is not as much recognised as a director and he says that is one role he finds challenging. Businesswise Tamil films are good these days and are being remade in other languages, says Nasser but regrets the lack of literary worth of films. “Why is nobody thinking like Piku in Tamil where a single emotion carries the film,” he asks.

So what stops him from making one? “I don’t have any such goal, it becomes a burden then. I am comfortable giving my best when somebody offers a role to me,” he replies. At the same time Nasser says he never wanted to be a full time hero because you have to live two lives then. “I want to be free and in the midst of society doing my own little things my way.”


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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 8:36:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/more-than-an-actor/article7429874.ece

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